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A proud parent taking a photo of their child in their school uniform

Posted 29 August 2017

Preparing for first school year survival… with a week to go

The build-up to the first day of school is an exciting – and occasionally nail-biting! – time for parents and children, but with a bit of extra prep, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a time for smiles rather than tears. Shannon Kyle talks to top parent bloggers for tips to make sure everything runs smoothly.

  • Check the school website for special meet-up days.
  • Wait until you know what your child enjoys before special buys.
  • Save on school uniform by shopping around.

You can find more of Shannon’s (@ShannonDotKyle) articles on the LV= life content hub.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Many schools arrange special days for parents and children to meet up during the week beforehand, so contact the school for details. Otherwise, arrange your own meet-up with families who are moving from the same nursery. It’s always nice to see friendly faces and share those first-day fears!

Leading up to the first day, read helpful books aimed at reception class children. Usborne have released two books – ‘All you need to know before you start school’ and ‘Starting school sticker book’ – with stories to reassure children and parents alike.

Plan your route to school as well, making sure it’s safe if you want your little one to ride a scooter and finding out how long it takes.

Mum of two girls and writer of the blog Brighton Mums Claire Jones-Hughes (@Brightonmums) says having a ‘dry run’ by trying the uniform on a few days before is a good idea.

‘Do the obligatory uniform picture before the first day,’ she recommends. ‘Putting yourself under pressure to get a snap for granny and granddad can add to the overwhelming feelings. Then you can put the camera away and fully appreciate the day rather than trying to capture it.’

Product reviewer and blogger Lucy Cotterill of Real Mum Review (@realmumreview), and mum to Erin, four, and Neve, nine months, agrees that planning in advance is key to avoid last-minute rushes.

‘I’m not the most organised person,’ says Lucy, ‘but it’s worth ticking off lists of things you need a few days early. Check how strict the uniform policy is so if you’re missing anything you still have time to find it.’

School day savings

Family finances can be stretched when children start school. Not only can the childcare costs change with after-school clubs or extra childminding, but pricey items like uniform, equipment and trips need to be factored in.

If you need to do any last-minute uniform buys, think about exactly what you need, says mum of two and blogger Natalie Cox (@memeandharri).

‘Don’t automatically go to the expensive uniform shops, as, in my experience, the quality is no different,’ suggests Natalie. ‘Buy stationery in discount stores and think about stocking up on cards and birthday gifts when they’re on sale – chances are your little one will be invited to lots of parties!’

Rachel Tompkins suggests not rushing into any last-minute special purchases.

‘Give it a few weeks into term to see what your child enjoys. For example, they might prefer recorder lessons to football,’ she says.

Claire Jones-Hughes recommends checking whether second-hand uniform sales are on later in the term.

‘Often, you can buy all you need through school sales, so ask the office when they are,’ she says. ‘Before going bonkers buying PE kits and trainers, check when reception children start PE as many do after Christmas, so you could add them onto a Christmas list.’

Lucy Cotterill suggests charity shops as a good option to find uniforms as well.

‘Also, check how strict the uniform policy is. While many have logos on their jumpers, not all insist upon it, meaning you can buy plain jumpers from supermarket and high-street chains,’ she adds.

Find out more about childcare costs and vouchers in our article on starting school.

Staying sane on the big first day

It’s not just the children who can find themselves in tears waving goodbye at the school gates – parents can also feel emotional on the big day. The week before gives you time to turn those nerves into excitement, and to enjoy those last days together. Perhaps you could factor in some fun days out or treats – once your child starts school you’ll be tied to holidays.

Lucy Cotterill suggests hiding your own anxiety from your child too.

‘I feel like an emotional wreck when I think about Erin starting school this September, but I always talk to her with a sense of excitement and happiness,’ she explains. ‘Now she genuinely can’t wait to go, even if I can’t promise I won’t sob all the way home after that first drop-off!’

Rachel Tompkins (@rachtompkins), writer for parenting website Mush and mum of two boys, says emotions are likely to be running high and preparing for tears on the day is a good idea.

‘Lunchtime can be daunting when they start school so pop a little note or, if they can’t read, a photo of the two of you together in their lunchbox to reassure them,’ she suggests.

Claire Jones-Hughes advises not to put pressure on yourself.

‘Don’t panic if you can’t find your morning routine straight away – it can take until Christmas,’ she says. ‘Think outside of the box too – for example, I have a ‘shoes on’ alarm on my phone to make it fun and turn the dining room into a ‘hair salon’, with a special sign on the door, so we have a bit of calm during hair brush time.’

Starting school is a big milestone for any parent and child, but with a few last-minute plans in place, the challenge can be a time to remember for all the right reasons.

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